Despite Bret Easton Ellis’s claims to the contrary, Bigelow is an interesting filmmaker because of her talent and perspective. Certainly, she’s beaten a path through the Hollywood boys’ club and been the first female to win the Best Director Oscar. These things are notable wholly because of her gender. More important, though, is the fact that she continues to produce work that amazes us with its artful tension, nuance, and complexity. In this sense, you may feel, watching Maya face off against the men in suits, barreling a hundred miles an hour toward a seemingly impossible goal, that you’re getting a glimpse at Bigelow’s own struggles.
As expected, Day-Lewis breathes life into Abraham Lincoln. And, as expected, he’s fantastic to watch, even if this isn’t a “call the Academy Award race for Best Actor over!” performance. From his work alone, Day-Lewis gives a humility and humanity to the ex-President that the script by Tony Kushner simply cannot achieve.
He brings up his 1600 SAT score, his obsession with Harvard’s final clubs, betrays his jealousy of the “world-class athletes” who row crew, and condescendingly tells Erica that she doesn’t have to study because she goes to BU. As Erica leaves, she predicts his success as “some kind of computer person,” then delivers the line that sets up the entire movie: “You’ll think everyone hates you because you’re a nerd, but it’ll be because you’re an asshole.”